June 7: No time trials today. This is the last day of the Trans-American Challenge. Tonight we have a final banquet and winners will be announced. We won’t win anything except the satisfaction of driving from NY to Alaska, making lots of new friends and seeing parts of North American we have never seen. With our two day detour to North Carolina and one day out to have the oil leak repaired in Montana (Ed’s not at all sure this was necessary, but at the time, we had little option) we couldn’t make up for all our penalties even if we had continued to run the time trials- which we didn’t. We weren’t willing to subject ourselves and Stewball to the fast speeds on gravel roads this rally requires. Some of the participants loved it and equally loved putting their cars back together in the afternoon and evening. We will miss this eclectic group from all over the world.
Before I describe this last day to Anchorage, I must go back and describe the day from Dawson City to Fairbanks. This was certainly one of our most interesting days.
First we all had to be ferried across the Yukon river on the north side of Dawson. This is the only way to cross, there is no bridge and we had to queue with all the locals. Then we crossed the most northern border into Alaska at Poker Creek (which is only open from the end of May to mid-October) and drove the gravel Top of the World “highway” , which is named such because it winds up and down the ridge of the mountains and passes through the colorful three-building town of Chicken. (I have no idea where the few residence live!)
Once a gold mining town, this is a stop that defies description so a couple of photos is all you’ll get. Use your imagination, but I will tell you they have the best homemade pies and sticky buns you will ever taste.
You already know how we spent our day off in Fairbanks-driving another 400 miles to the Arctic Circle.
This last day took us past Mt. McKinley. At 20,000 feet, this is the highest mountain in North America. Our lunch stop was supposed to be a great viewing area, unfortunately, clouds covered the top so our view wasn’t spectacular but the entire run was again set against snow-covered mountains nearly all the way to Anchorage.
On a first drive in, Anchorage appears very ordinary. The city is flat, laid out in a grid and the architecture is plain. What makes the city impressive is the location. Mountains on three sides and the ocean on the fourth.
When the sun shines, everything sparkles and the outdoors beacons. I’ve concluded, either you love Alaska, or you hate it. It certainly stands apart from the lower 48. This time of year, it is never completely dark, but I can’t imagine the long months of cold, snow and never completely light.
Initially we planned to drive back to Chapel Hill, another 4,400 miles, but several days back, we changed our plan when we realized It would mean covering at least 400 miles a day to get back with a day to spare before our flight to Paris. Even with highway driving, we had miles of mountain roads so we decided to ship Stewball back and fly from Anchorage.
Our flight was to leave Anchorage on June 12 but we quickly realized that we didn’t want to stay after the rally was over. When it’s over, it’s over. We changed our flight-at some cost-and drove Stewball to Alaska Auto Transport who will put him in a container, then on a ship to Seattle, then overland by truck with National Auto. We will not see him until we are back from Paris at the end of July. He has done well on this trip, putting up with rough roads, bad weather and approximately 10,000 miles of driving day after day. He performed much better, albeit slower, than many of the more expensive, powerful cars. We hope he has a quiet, restful trip back.
More from home,
Jan, Ed and Stewball
P.S. We hope everyone who bought The Long Road to Paris will enjoy it on their long flights back to Europe and beyond.